The best way to sum up Toronto is with one word: madness.
I don’t know if there was one driver who didn’t have some contact during Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto, and I’m not sure that anyone left without being angry at another driver. It was a crazy race, but I’m pleased that we were able to come out of it with another victory.
From qualifying on, everything was incredibly close. The top four cars in qualifying were less than four-tenths of a second apart. For a 1.755-mile street circuit, that’s extremely competitive.
I ran fourth and then third during the first stint of the race. My turning point came when my engineer, Chris Simmons, pitted me early as my teammate, Scott Dixon, and Will Power and I were starting were starting to get into lapped traffic.
Things got pretty mixed up three laps after that when a yellow came out. Some people stayed out and as a result we were a bit further up the field than either Scott or Will. Later, Will and Justin Wilson passed me on a restart, and not long after that I got a run on Will on the backstraight. I had to brush the brakes just to keep from running into him.
He braked so deep going into Turn 3. That was pretty impressive, but because of that he missed the apex. That opened the door for me and I went down the inside and alongside him. He gave me enough room going into the turn, but then he came back down through the middle of the turn. I was tight against the right-hand wall, which actually comes out a bit as you go through the turn. I could see Will coming down but couldn’t get my car out of the quickly shrinking gap.
As I said on TV afterward, I’m willing to take a portion of the blame for it, but I really believe it was a racing incident. Will was obviously scathing afterward, but I think it was a case of the frustration of having two DNFs in a row. If he looks back at the video, I think he’ll see that we were both at fault, if not then there's nothing I can do about it. It’s not the first time two drivers involved in an incident have had differing views about it!
It’s not impossible to go through that corner side-by-side.I saw many people do it, and I did it all day with guys like Justin and Ryan Hunter-Reay. It was difficult to do, but it could be done. We just weren’t able to get it done that particular time.
But I do understand Will’s frustration. I certainly know what it feels like, and I hope we can talk about it before Edmonton and put it behind us.
After the crash, I started to make up some ground and passed my way back up to second. Then Graham Rahal and I couldn’t get side by side on a restart and got waved off a couple of times. It was just so difficult to come out of those last two turns side by side as the rules require with all the marbles without sticking the thing in the fence.
In the end, though, it was a 1-2 finish for Team Target, which was massive for Scott and I. Target will have a huge presence in Canada in 2013, so a lot of Target folks were there. It was an important showing for us in a lot of ways.
But it was a mad race. Having talked to some of the drivers afterward, I know how angry people were. There was a lot of contact and a lot of temper.
Toronto is an intense circuit. It tends to lead to lots of crashes, but not normally to the level we saw on Sunday. It was madness. Because of the competition and the closeness of the cars and drivers, we’re always in tight proximity with each other.
Add to that the difficult conditions and the marbles and the trouble with the pickup on the tires, and we all had difficult situations out there. It took a good five laps after a caution period to clean the tires of all the tiny bits of rubber that build up on them under caution. As the green flag waved, you were skating around, especially on the concrete sections of the track.
You’re constantly trying to get as close to the limit as possible at Toronto without going over. When you go over the limit, it’s not a small problem. It’s a massive one.
But we managed to get through it and post our 30th career victory and increase our lead in the championship standings. The points lead is nice to have, but we just have to focus now on Edmonton on July 24. We just have to maximize what we do there and do our very best.
And we finished 1-2 for the team, which means Scott is driving extremely well at this point. In my opinion, he was the car to beat all weekend. The whole team was happy after this one and definitely looking forward to the next one.
As the season moves into the second half, the tension ratchets up. By the time we get to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next month, it will be at full intensity. Stay tuned.